Amnesties

“Amnesty,” a promise not to prosecute alleged violations of the law, is sometimes granted after periods of conflict or political dispute to create an opportunity for peace and reconciliation. Amnesty has been granted to both individuals and groups and can be granted for individual violations or for violations occurring over a period of time. Often, grants of amnesty are conditioned upon actions, such as disarmament or cooperation with a truth commission. Proponents of this tool generally argue that it eliminates the threat of future prosecution, which otherwise might encourage parties to prolong a conflict rather than risk punishment. Critics of amnesty argue that it sets a bad precedent and lowers the risk of initiating conflict. Some critics also argue that some offenses, particularly crimes against humanity, are not eligible for amnesty because they are in violation of international law, and nobody is empowered to waive enforcement of such laws.